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West Side development deal promises 7 train extension

Tishman Speyer, which has interests in many countries and owns Rockefeller Center, won the bidding competition by offering slightly more than $1 billion - $39 million over its closest competitor.Tishman Speyer received a 99-year lease on the Hudson Yards, which at 26 acres is the largest piece of undeveloped space left in Manhattan. The space actually includes two sections of rail yards, one on each side of 11th Avenue between 30th and 33rd streetsThe project is to include four, possibly five, office towers; more than 3,000 housing units in seven buildings; 15 acres of parks; and a school. It would also include an unspecified cultural institution.Plans called for a plaza with architecture loosely based on the Spanish Steps in Rome.Some planners and financial analysts questioned whether, in a slowing economy and with tightening loans, the project would get underway anytime soon."This is a space 50 percent larger than Rockefeller Center," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "Just think how that transformed midtown Manhattan."Gary Dellaverson, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief financial officer, told an MTA board meeting March 26 that an agreement had been reached that very morning after long and arduous negotiations including a session on the evening of Easter Sunday.The developer's first job is to build an enormous $2 billion platform above the rail yards, to be the staging areas for Long Island Rail Road trains. The development will be erected on the platform.Jerry Speyer, chairman of Tishman Speyer, said construction could start as early as 2010, with some buildings completed by 2013.Planners have long said the development of the area was heavily dependent on extending the No. 7 line from Times Square to the Javits Convention Center area.Dellaverson said that to that end the deal between the MTA and Tishman included granting the developer the right to withhold lease payments to the transit agency in case of construction delays on the No. 7 extension.Residents of the area have protested that too much commercial space and luxury apartments and not enough low-income housing is planned.City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and state Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan) have demanded more subsidized apartments for low- and middle-income tenants than the 379 the current plans called for.For the MTA, the $1 billion it will get from the deal will go toward lessening its financial problems.Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phne at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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